Smell a whiff of history in your cup of coffee

In College Street Kolkata stands a legendary hanging out space called The Indian Coffee House. Hugely atmospheric, it’s like you step inside a different era.

Once the hub of city’s intellectual elite, this place is sheer nostalgia and a slice of history.

Text and Photos – Ayandrali Dutta

The smell of coffee and cigarettes greets as you step into this place. Located right in the middle of book hub of the city- College Street, the Indian Coffee House has been the seat of many discussions, movements, and much iconic revolutions had taken birth here.

From poets, artists, musicians, revolutionaries to authors …this happened to be the hot seat of discussion for one and all.

Graffiti, posters and other interesting creative can be seen on the wall as you take your steps up the main area. There are a few murals too. Echoing history and heritage one can spot the waiters still in their pre-independence era uniform – full white along with the trademark feather look turbans.

The Colonial architecture all around is a testimony in itself that time stands still here most of the time it’s not that easy to spot an empty table here.

Looking around place one can conformably see people engrossed in some serious discussions or college students munching over some Fish kabiraji, Mutton cutlet and sipping coffee as they while away time.

The famous Kolkata idiom “Adda” is synonymous to this place. Be it campus tete-a-tete, politics or business,  everything is served on a plate here.

The history of this place dates back to 300 year when it was the residence of Bengali Philosopher and social reformer Shri Keshab Chandra Sen and then later in 19th century this was named as the Albert Hall, the ballroom of the delegates of the East India Company. In 1942 this same Albert Hall turned into a coffee joint and in 1947 as India got independence of the nation, this place came to be known as “Coffee House”.

The Coffee House is a living piece of history that has seen much ups and that the city or the country has gone through.

As you flip through the menu don’t be surprised seeing the price point. Amazingly decently priced, the mutton cutlets here are just for Rs 45. And make sure not to ask for tea, as quick will come the reply from the waiter “sir this is a coffee house, no tea please.”

Spread across two floors the place sees a maximum seating of around 100 people at one go.

Renovated last in 2009, this place still looks a bit dingy and cluttered but the Indian Coffee House remains to be the oldest, prestigious adda joint for all intellectuals in the city. If you strike a conversation with any of waiters you might get to hear some real interesting anecdotes too.

The coffee house remains closed on Sunday but on any other given day the charm and chaos of this place will not fail to enthrall you.